Audit surprises owners, puts future of Clydesdales in doubt
THE first comprehensive stables inspection in nine years by Rockhampton Regional Council may have sudden consequences for suburban horse owners bending animal-keeping rules.
The council’s Selective Inspection Program, which began on July 20 and will continue until September 30, is being carried out on properties with stables approval to check where stables have been built, where horses are being kept, and if those horses are being kept well.
Letters were sent to residents before the audit began.
The previous inspection was in 2011.
Capricorn Carriages owner Steven May has housed his non-racing Clydesdales in racehorse stables for four years.
Mr May said strict enforcement of the rules now would put pressure on his business because he would have to move the horses farther from town.
He said Capricorn Carriages was “just about out the back door”, particularly with a recent drop in tourism revenue.
“The stables in North Rockhampton are for racehorses only,” he said.
“You can’t keep a pony, you can’t keep stallions, you can’t keep donkeys. Technically I’ve got to get rid of the Clydesdales.
“It’s going to make it very difficult for us to continue to trade. It’s only really going to be for the love of it that we do continue; we make no money out of the horse and carriage business.”
Mr May said his business was a beneficial tourist attraction, and that he was “just trying to keep our head above water at the moment”.
Stables assessments take into account planning and building approvals and local laws.
Generally, racehorses must be kept on premises at least 800 sq m, and approval is required to keep one in an urban area.
Horses other than racehorses or stallions, such as Clydesdales, may not be kept on properties less than 2,000 sq m, and approval is required to keep more than one animal on a property less than 20,000 sq m.
Rockhampton Jockey Club CEO Tony Fenlon said the audit could affect many suburban trainers, and he would have liked greater communication with the council.
“I’m surprised that I’ve had no consultation given the fact that there’s a lot of racehorses stabled in suburban Rockhampton,” he said.
“If they don’t want more horses in the suburbs, the logical place is the racetrack.”
Callaghan Park has 124 on-course stables, all of which are occupied at the moment.
Mr Fenlon said he would like to work with the council to see if the club could lend a hand to trainers affected by the inspection.
“We’re here to work with everybody,” he said.
“Speak to us and let’s see if we can erect more stables on the course here.”
Planning and regulatory portfolio spokesman Councillor Ellen Smith said: “Our officers work hard to make sure all types of animals are properly looked after in our community and regularly carry out inspection programs, whether that’s for dogs or for bigger animals like horses.
“If you have a question about your specific circumstances just give Council a call and one of our Local Laws Officers will be happy to help.”
She said that some people had been rude to the council staff executing the audit.
“So far the vast majority of residents have been helpful and cooperative, and the inspection has been a quick and easy process,” Ms Smith said.
“However, we have had some individuals being both verbally and physically abusive to our officers which is just not acceptable.
“Our staff are out there to make sure animals are being properly cared for and not causing issues for other residents, and we won’t tolerate abusive behaviour towards them.”
The council has authority to inspect stables under the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008 and the Local Government Act 2009.
Horse-keeping requirements are contained in the Rockhampton Regional Council Local Law 1 (Administration) 2011 and Rockhampton Regional Council Local Law 2 (Animal Management) 2011.
The council has waived stable licence fees until the end of the year.